CA upholds 10-year jail time for U.S. Marine who killed Jennifer Laude

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) declared final its decision sentencing US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton to a maximum of 10 years in prison for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014.

In a 12-page resolution issued on August 15, the CA junked the appeal filed by Pemberton and upheld its earlier ruling of homicide.

The CA said Pemberton's arguments were a mere "rehash of the issues" already discussed in the decision last April 3, where the CA upheld the ruling of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court against him.

"With respect to Pemberton's motion, we maintain our ruling that his invocation of self-defense is an admission of the killing and of its authorship," said the CA ruling, penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison. Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Henri Jean Paul Inting concurred with the decision.

"Pemberton's contention that he was only raising complete and incomplete self-defense in the physical injuries he inflicted upon [Jennifer] Laude is bereft of rhyme or reason as the former was not charged for any physical injuries but for homicide," the CA ruled.

Pemberton insisted that he did not kill Laude, claiming the latter was alive when he left her inside their motel room, and that the wounds he inflicted on Laude were done out of self-defense. An autopsy report earlier revealed Laude died due to asphyxia by drowning and strangulation.

"Pemberton unabashedly plunged Laude's head in the toilet for the puerile reason that Laude pretended to be a woman. To our mind, placing Laude's head inside a toilet shows that Pemberton never thought of Laude as a human being, but as fecal matter due to [her] sexual orientation," the court ruling said.

Pemberton asked the CA to consider his voluntary surrender as a mitigating circumstance and to lessen the penalty.

But the CA did not buy his arguments, saying there was no medical proof that Pemberton was attacked or "slapped" by Laude.

"The allegation of Pemberton that he was slapped by Laude could not even be corroborated by any medical findings. Worthy to note that according to Pemberton, the slap he allegedly received made his ear ring which if true should have promoted Pemberton to immediately seek medical attention," the CA said.

To further counter Pemberton's claims, the CA said if he were indeed only trying to defend himself, he should have sought medical assistance for Laude.

The CA added that Pemberton's immediate escape from the motel is a sign of guilt.

"The bits of evidence, pieced together, point to Pemberton as the killer of Laude. Ostensibly, our rules make no distinction between direct evidence of a fact and evidence of circumstances from which the existence of a fact may be inferred. Pemberton's criminal liability for homicide stands," the CA said.

Aside from the US Marine's appeal, the CA also denied the Office of the Solicitor General's plea not to grant Pemberton full credit for the time he spent under preventive imprisonment because he did not voluntarily agree to follow the same rules imposed upon convicted prisoners.

The appellate court also upheld the payment of "loss of earning capacity" to Laude's family, amounting to P4.32 million. – Rappler.com